Three Ways to Make Sure Stunt Marketing Yields Success

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In today's age of constant communication, consumers are bombarded with sales messages via smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs and even their watches and glasses. Breaking through the clutter and making an impact on people can be extremely challenging in such a crowded environment. One method of doing so is stunt marketing, a risky approach that, if executed properly, can yield big rewards for brands both new and established.


Stunt marketing is just that: a one-time, large-scale, attention-grabbing event. Even if you've never used the tactic yourself, chances are you've been exposed to others' attempts. Remember Ellen Degeneres' star-studded Oscars selfie that went viral and almost broke the Internet? How about when Uber shuttled Manhattanites to the Hamptons via helicopter for the Fourth of July? Or when a New York City hotel added a $1,000 bagel to the breakfast menu? Each of these acts was designed to leave an impression and make headlines, if only for a short period of time.


Over-the-top tactics can catapult a brand into the spotlight in a positive or a negative way. Successful stunt marketers must consider several factors to ensure that their efforts aren't detrimental to the brand.


Think it through. One common way to engage consumers is to ask them to perform a task in exchange for a reward. Popular spinning chain Soul Cycle periodically offers free hoodies to clients who take 20 classes in a 31-day period. For a company that charges upwards of $30 per person per class, the cost of a sweatshirt is a relatively small price to pay in exchange for the publicity. On the other hand, a family-owned Mexican restaurant in San Francisco jokingly posted a sign offering free lunch for life to anyone who had the store's logo tattooed on his or her body. The company wasn't laughing for long, however; forty people rose to the challenge, which could potentially cost the restaurant $5.8 million over fifty years.


Know your target audience. When conceiving an out-of-the-box tactic, there's a fine line between creative and offensive. At the 2012 South by Southwest music festival in Austin, TX, BBH labs paid thirteen homeless people $20 a day to carry mobile WiFi devices and serve as "homeless hotspots". Instead of marveling at the originality of the stunt, the general reaction was that the idea was in very poor taste. Essentially, the company spent a great deal of time, effort and money to damage its own public image.


Make it accessible. Remember last year's ice bucket challenge, which prompted millions of people around the world to either dump freezing cold water on themselves or donate $100 to help cure ALS? This task was easy to perform for people of virtually any age, background, social status or income bracket. Everyone from Bill Gates to Taylor Swift to Cookie Monster got involved. Not only did the event get people talking about ALS, it also raised millions of dollars in donations.


While the above factors need to be considered for all forms of marketing, missing the mark with stunt marketing can be expensive and irreparably damage your brand. So keep these in mind next time you choose to do something epic.


Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker

Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Northeast powder hound. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. VP Marketing, Doodle owner and cocreator of my daughter.